Running nutrition and anaemia

15 messages
06/10/2010 at 02:02


I had some blood tests taken recently and it has emerged that I am anaemic, and not just slightly. The doctor was quite worried and said i'd need to take supplements and make sure I get enough iron. They are wanting to run some other tests but she thinks it is likely due to do with training lots and not replacing the nutrients. I was really suprised because I thought my diet was pretty good and I didn't think I was run down or anything. It does make some sense now as i've had a couple of really bad races over the past two months, but I thought it was just through my own laziness and bad strategising.

I just wondered if anyone here does anything in particular to make sure you are getting enough iron when training? Have any others had this problem?


07/10/2010 at 15:04

dried apricots and figs are both high in iron and double up as energy foods on long runs. I get anamic occasionally when i neglect my diet.

Paula radcliff reported has suffered from anamia and I saw an article in The Times which said she eats venison meat which has lots of iron and low in fat.

07/10/2010 at 15:45

If your anaemia is that bad, then maybe a food supplement or daily vitamin should be considered. But food is ultimately more satisfying! Beef steaks and spinach are high in iron. Fresh spinach leaves can be stuffed in sandwiches, many cooked meals, made as a bed for pasta etc.

Lots of distance running can break up red blood cells through constant impact on the foot. Is it worth checking that your running shoes are in good condition and not completely worn out while you are at it?

Good luck

07/10/2010 at 17:40

I came out with low iron & B12 levels on a blood test after I'd been feeling very lethargic. A course of iron tablets boosted the levels back into the normal range, and from there a normal diet just keeps me in range (although still at the low end). If it drops, I can't get enough iron im my diet to bring it back up, but I seem to be able to maintain it.

Some things can block the uptake of iron, I had to avoid milk, coffee and a few other things that I can't recall now for a few hours either side of taking the tablets, as they'd inhibit iron uptake. Maybe that might have an impact, especially if you drink a lot of milk/coffee?

From what I understand your body can't store iron well, so you need to make sure you're getting some every day. I have either marmite or a fortified cereal for breakfast every day, and that seems to have done the trick.

07/10/2010 at 21:49

Thanks for the replies!

I think i'm going toi try supplements. I have however just been told I have to go in for surgery next week as a lump has been found in my throat that shouldn't be there. I'm not sure if it is connected, I am hoping it isn't and it will just be some cyst. It is going to mean three whole weeks of no running. I'm going to go crazy! But it has to be done. I'l probably be on here in a month with a 'struggling to get back into it' thread. Ha.

P.S Interesting fact I have found out is that spinach is actually not high in iron - this is a widely held myth. Spinach is actually an iron absorbtion inhibitor. Interesting!

07/10/2010 at 23:09
Good luck with the surgery. Was your doctor aware that you train? An apparent low haem reading can be caused by the increase of plasma volume caused by a lot of training (the clear part of the blood). So supplements in this case would not be the right response. I am not a medic but you could ask him or her about this point.
08/10/2010 at 21:44
I was just reading this thread and its quite interesting to me. I'm a nutritionist who did a couple of my degree modules in sports nutrition. If anyone would like some nutritional advice please feel free to contact me.
In terms of foods rich in iron, red meat is 1 of the best sources and green leafy vegeatbles are good. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron especially from the vegetable sources as the body finds these harder to absorb.
Good luck with the surgery
09/10/2010 at 00:14

Yes i'm a bit perplexed about what's going on because my diet is really good. I buy all of my fruits and veggies at a local market every Sunday and eat a lot of lentils and chickpeas. I only eat whole grain bread, rice and pasta. I probably am a little low on red meat, but i'd always thought it should be minimised in the diet to keep sat fat down. Everyone is a bit shocked because i'm known amongst my friends as the health freak. My BMI is bang in the middle of the normal range too so i'm not underweight or anything.

Anyway I am sure i'll get tot he bottom of it soon once the surgery and other tests have been completed.

 Thanks again for the responses.

09/10/2010 at 07:52
I was anaemic when I was pregnant, and I was advised to take SpaTone, which is water that is naturally rich in iron. You buy a box of sachets, and dilute them down into orange juice.  I got mine from Boots.
09/10/2010 at 08:32

Bury Black Pudding, about £1 from Tesco.  It's the most amazing running food.  FACT.

High protein, good carb content, surprisingly low fat, and bursting with super-bioavailable heme iron.  I run 150 miles a week powered by a packet of BBP a day, and swear by it.  Well, I eat other things too, but my daily BBP is a staple!

14/10/2010 at 00:11
Interesting thread. I have suffered from severe anaemia in the past - not exercise related and the only way to get your count back up if it is really low, is to get a prescription, supplements over the counter won't do it neither will diet. There are different types of anaemia, so blood tests need to check for these in order to establish the cause. You don't mention whether you suffer from heavy periods (if you are female?!)  but I'm sure your Doctor would have covered this. I had tried Spatone and supplements as I was aware I had a problem but they got me nowhere near where I needed to be. Might be worth rechecking with your Doctor whether a prescription is needed. I hope your surgery goes well and you get it all sorted. In the meantime, enjoy the rest!
15/10/2010 at 09:39

I get highly anaemic. The first time it was discovered I was 11 so it can't all be from my running! I haven't been tested in a while but the doc did say it might be from lots of training and not putting enough back in. Think last time I had it checked my Ferritin was 4.

I had a prescription from the doc, but ended up buying something from the chemist that was over the counter but had the same amount in as the prescription for half the price! It's not a normal vitamin / iron supplement, but I think it's called Ferous Sulphate. Not sure if it's doing the trick or not because I do often feel tired! In the past I have taken the prescription, been fine,  then gone back a few months later and I'm down again.

 I keep seeing Feroglobin advertised on the back of buses - anyone know if this is any good? For iron and B12. I am veggie too but try hard to get lots of iron from other sources, and drink lots of orange juice to help with the vitamin C absorbtion thing.

 I wondered if there's something in me that doesn't absorb iron properly?? I did ask the doc about this but they said that "it's possible but very rare"... so they don't test for it.

15/10/2010 at 09:51

I was diagnosed with chronic anaemia (so low that 4 blood transfusions would not fix it) just 2 weeks before I was due to run the comrades this year.  The doctors told me I was not to fly to south africa, never mind run.  I was gutted (although I flew to SA anyway though didnt race).  Anyway I have had 6 or so investigations, scopes, biopsies etc (checking for coeliac, chrones disease which both affect iron absorbtion)... but to no avail.  I still have some further tests to get done.

However I have been taking ferrous sulphate (essentially iron tablets) three times a day and my HB and iron levels are now nearlly normal.  My times have improved too and I am not half as tired - although I hadnt really noticed I was.  I also found it very frustrating as I am particularly diligent about my diet.

Form what I have read female runners are particularly prone to anaemia, part. long distance runners.  THis is made worse if you get a dodgy stomach or have heavy periods.

Good luck though, I know how frustrating it is.

15/10/2010 at 09:57

same as others I am prone to it.  I cant take the ferrous sulphate anymore for some reason, last time I did I suffered bad with my styomach and was doing a tri so that was not good.  I also use spatone.  I was told by a female doc that I have to take supplements because my iron always drops without them.  Heavy periods, and running has done it for me, apparently you lose iron through your sweat and I sweat lots!

Fun and games, it is a real pain actually because spatone cost lots more that ferrous sulphate amd money is tight lately!!

great post it does help to see how others cope with what for me is an ongoing pain in the neck!

Roll on menopause....

15/10/2010 at 11:20
According to their website Feroglobin(TM) is suitable for vegetarians, so I ordered some. Previous stuff I had a look at was not. I was a bit suspicious of Spatone but there are a couple of studies available on medline that show the absorption is effective. Mind you, I wonder how effective cooking your veggies in cast iron pots would be, since that too could be called a mineral water like Spatone is, presumably I haven't seen a study of that but it is often advised as one self-treatment among several.

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